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The Science of Munchies: Why Does Cannabis Stimulate Your Appetite?

A new study from the brilliant minds at Yale University has explained one of the most curious phenomena from cannabis: the science of munchies. Why do some cannabis consumers experience a heightened sense of appetite after partaking in some of their favorite strains? The Yale study dove into this eternal question and has come up with a scientific answer.

Cannabinoid receptors have a coordinated dance with specific neurons in the brain known as pro-opiomelancortin (or POMC neurons), which are located in the hypothalamus. These neurons control appetite stimulation (as well as other base instincts, such as sexual arousal and alertness – this explains so much). The POMC neurons are also responsible for sending a chemical signal to the brain to stop eating when the person is full.

Scientists have long made the connection between the stimulation of cannabinoid receptors and an increase in appetite. However, this study made the correlation that when cannabinoids are introduced to the system, a receptor inside the POMC neuron is activated, causing a switch from signaling that the person is full to making endorphins, a neurotransmitter that increases appetite.

Tamas Horvath, the lead researcher (who has also authored numerous scientific studies on cannabinoids and eating behavior, as well as endocannabinoids and their role in body fat regulation), likened the chemical effect to switching your foot from a gentle tap of the brakes to rapidly accelerating instead. It fools your brain’s central feeding system and suddenly you feel ravenous, even if you've just eaten.

This explains much of the standard(ly amazing) chemical reactions we often experience with the introduction of cannabis – euphoria, arousal, hunger. So now you know, and, much like our friends at GI Joe would proclaim, knowing is half the battle. (Although they'd rather you turn towards apples and other healthy snacks instead of candy bars when it's munchies time. Those Joes, always looking out for us.)

Learn more about cannabis and eating by catching up on these fun facts:

3 Fun Facts About Cannabis and Eating